The Art of Travel
30 Days In Your Carry On Bags!
Travel is an essential part of the world we live in. Our lives are mobile and ever-changing and we travel for both business and fun. Some are on the road for a couple of days or a couple of weeks and yet others can be gone from the comforts of home for a month at a time! I fall into this category. Travel consumes vast amounts of time and can be incredibly frustrating-especially for the novice! And yet travel can be immensely rewarding and pleasurable as we experience the sights and sounds of all the world has to offer. A stroll in Central Park today; imagining gladiators dueling in Rome's Colosseum tomorrow; Mao's tomb in Beijing the next. Travel is an education. Travel is a skill. Travel is an Art all by itself......
I am a travel professional! As an airline pilot, the Art of Travel is something I have come to appreciate greatly. Practicing the Art correctly can make the difference in having a great trip or a bad one! And one of the most important things you can do is to prepare and pack properly.
We have all seen it. The throngs of humanity arrive at curbside disgorging their gargantuan 40 inch/100 cubic foot bags one after the other! You might even find the proverbial "kitchen sink" inside one of them! All bound for for a fun-filled 4 day adventure in some far-off land of intrigue and discovery! After the van driver gets in his morning workout unloading, our travelers slog and drag their mountains of belongings over to the ticket counter, pay an exorbitant fee, longingly watch their bags slide along the conveyor and then "sweatingly" make their way to the gate. Already worn out by the ordeal, they can't wait to repeat the event in reverse on the other end! These folks are mere doodlers in the fine Art of Travel-drawing stick arms and legs instead of the well-proportioned sinewy detail in the musculature art of a master sculptor.......and that's where I come in!
Fear not! If you tend to fall into the above category of traveler I am about to show you how you can pack for 30 days in just your carry on bags....it can be done and it is an essential part in the Art of Travel........shall we begin packing?
Everything starts here. It is really important that you buy the proper bag and the first thing you must consider is the size. If its too big, you will have to check it and if its too small you can't carry enough of your life to get you through your 4 days at Disneyland. The standard for the airline bins is 22 inches. That's what you want because the trick is to never have to check anything or be charged for extra weight. I never check my bag! Not because I am afraid that the airline will lose it, but because I value my time and prefer the most expeditious route out of the airport.
Of course the next thing is to make sure you have good wheels! Don't EVER buy plastic wheels for your roll-aboard bag! They will not last and you will be frustrated beyond belief having to drag your bag around on flat-spotted wheels. Yes, a bag with good rubber roller blade wheels is going to be more expensive, but trust me its worth the extra coinage!
Next, make sure it had lots of external storage areas. Space is at a premium for your 30-days-in-your-carry-on-bags journey so you need to make the most of it. There are a wide variety of options out there and each person will be different, but no matter what you choose-get those external pockets/slots etc!
And finally, the last thing to consider is expandability. During your 30 day journey you will, no doubt, have collected a few momentos here and there and you will have to find a way to squeeze in every last one of those Mickey Mouse T-shirts that you bought in the Magic Kingdom. That's OK because many manufacturers add a zippered gusset that can expand your capacity to carry by several inches. Imagine the number of knick knacks that will get you! On the downside, if the shopping in your soul gets the best of you and you find yourself unzipping, you will probably have to check it back at the airport. No big deal-you're headed home at that point anyway! The point is that buying expandibility gives you options and having options is fundamental to the Art of Travel.
That being said, you might be asking yourself, "I wonder what he uses?" Glad you asked! I have been refining the Art of Travel for many years now and have tried many bags from many different manufacturers. One thing I have found is that the consistency in one manufacturer from year to year can change drastically. Take Travelpro for instance. A number of years ago the quality was not up to par and my airline lifestyle really ripped the bags up and they would barely last a year. However my current Travelpro 22" Crew Series expandible is by far the best bag I have ever owned and I am now on year 4 with it. There is lots of life left in that bag and it has been around the world many times now. There is one other manufacturer that I would like to mention and that is Purdyneatstuff. "Who" you ask? If you are an airport people observer, you have probably noticed the boxy looking rollaboards that many flight crews are carrying these days. Well, that's Purdyneatstuff! The advantage is that they are very strong and have fantastic wheels. The disadvantage is that a 27" Purdyneat will only hold as much as a 22" Travelpro. At least that has been my experience as I have both; so I pretty much stay with the Travelpro. The other part of the equation is that in the past 10 years, European carriers have become very strict on what you can and can't carry on an airplane and most of the time I have been forced to check the 27"er while the 22"er gets by.
Now on we go to bag number 2. This is the little guy that gets a free ride on the back of the 22"er! As of this writing North American airlines allow us all to carry on 2 bags; not so with other parts of the world where you may be restricted to just one. As a result selecting a free-rider is a little more critical than you would think at first glance.
The first consideration is size. This isn't a clear cut thing primarily because of all the little puddle-jumper jets running around these days. By the way this isn't a worry on the big jets. The problem is that this is the bag you want with you at all times and is where you will store your "must-haves". That necessitates potentially using the "huge" space under the seat in front of you on these little jets and these spaces are all different. For example, if your airplane is configured with a single seat on the left and 2 on the right, chances are the space beneath the single seat is far smaller than the other 2 on the right and may not accommodate your number 2 bag. Have you ever looked at how much space is in the overhead on these little jets? Not much is there?
So the key is getting something that will fit under the smallest of seats or in the overhead. This means making sure what you get is soft-sided so you can do a little "forcing" if you must. While wheeled hard-sided number 2 bags may be nice, you also may be forced to part with them ala gate-checking. If this doesn't bother you, you're golden but if it does you need something a little smaller.
That being said I personally think the best choice is a backpack because 1) it can ride piggyback on the big guy through the airport with out problem and 2) it can double as your walking around bag at Disney World while you get to keep your hands and arms free to buy more T-shirts!
There are a couple of things I look for in my number 2 bag. Strength and duribility are obvious ones. The not-so-obvious ones are lots of attach points, external storage areas, and zipper configuration. Attach points are important for things like sunglass cases/cameras/binoculars/cellphones etc. I think you get the picture here. Make sure the attach points are on the straps in front of you so you can monitor for "itchy fingers".
There are many good brands out there. I have had good luck with Kelty and my current backpack-the Synergy by Wenger Swiss Gear. This bag has everything I need and serves not only as my professional flight bag for work, but my carry around day bag as well!
The zipper configuration warrants a small note here that is applicable to both the 22"er and the little guy. Everyone knows that if someone wants to steal something they can and will, and little can be done to stop them. However, why make it easy? Make sure that every bag you will ever buy can be locked in some way. And I suggest that you make sure you can do so by using those TSA approved locks. If you use other locks, the first time you check a bag and TSA is forced to open the "unapproved" type, they will be destroyed. This entails looking at the zipper configuration and ensuring they have little holes for the locking mechanism to go through. You might be surprised to find out how few have this! Yes, if the bad guys want in they will get in, but a little bit of deterrence is probably worth the preventive effect!
That's all on bags. I have used the above methods for 20 years now in the Art of Travel and I have been pleased with the results. Now lets talk about filling them up for our 30 day journey....
You are going to have to wear something on your journey unless you plan on spending 30 days at "Little Beach" on Maui-but that's a whole other story. "Wrinkle-Free, Moisture Wicking, Dri-Fit, Quick Dry" are all terms you want to take note of because if you are to become a true master in the Art of Travel you will also have to become the proud owner of pants, shirts, underwear, and socks that bear these names or something close to it!
The trick here is to eliminate as much washing, ironing and clothes care as possible while you are on the road. And it is very easy to do. Now, it must be said that you won't be winning a fashion contest anytime during your trip but that is not the goal in mastering the Art of Travel. If high fashion is a must for you, skip immediately to the next section on entertainment. The goal is to travel litely and unencumbered so you can enjoy watching Mickey on Mainstreet USA!
Lets start with shirts. You need both long sleeve and short sleeve shirts both collared and "T". 30 days, 30 shirts you say! That's not quite the way it works as I am sure you have guessed. The trick is to get convertible shirts that are moisture-wicking. By convertible I mean that the sleeves roll up and are anchored via a button mechanism that keeps them in place. The best example of this is Steve Irwin of TV animal fame. I don't think I ever saw the guy without one of these shirts! They aren't pretty, but they are comfortable and can be modified for extra cooling and short sleeves. But most of all, they can be hand washed in the sink and air-dried on a hanger in 2 hours if done properly! More about his later. My favorite shirt is made by Ex-Officio and I have had it now for 12 years and it hasn't worn a bit. I kid you not! I also have similar shirts from Northface and Columbia that function the same way but I like the Ex shirt the best because of its pockets. I highly recommend them!
T shirts can be found made of the same material all over the place. The early generation quick-dry material didn't circulate the air very well and you tended to get too hot but today they have refined the material and its almost like wearing cotton! Except you can wash them in the sink and they are dry in an hour. Cotton shirts might take a week to dry in a moist hotel room. There are many manufacturer and styles and colors. Go visit any sports store and shop till your heart is content. In fact I found plain white quick-dry t shirts at Target for just a few dollars and they are perfect! But don't buy too many- you only need 3 for your 30 day journey.
Pants can be dealt with in a convertible fashion as well. There is no need to take pants and shorts as everybody as seen the zipper pants where the legs are removed and-Voila!-you have shorts. There are lots of materials to choose from. Since we are dealing with the Art of Travel I would also recommend the use of quick-dry material from the same manufacturers above in the shirts section. A pair of tan and a pair of blue and you are set for the next 30 days!
Just like shirts, underwear and socks can be found quite easily made from the same quick-dry material. However, there are 2 ideas when it comes to underwear and surviving on the road for long periods. Heck, for 30 days you'd need a whole bag just for underwear alone if you just brought your regular cotton boys! The first way around this is to buy disposable. They are out there and are light weight but once you wear 'em they are dead and buried. Its kind of a waste of money. I think the better way to go is to bring just 3 pairs of quick-dry underwear along. The best I have found are made by Under Armour. If you are a guy, you are probably thinking " hang on a sec, 3 pairs worn back-to-front and inside-out only gives 4 days per pair and that's 12 days total". That would be correct, but we are living in 2009-there must be a better way! And there is......
Simply take advantage of the tools you have at your disposal in the hotel. Namely shampoo, sinks, hot water, towels and hangers! Your own washing and drying machines right in the comfort of your home away from home. The beauty of quick dry material is that it washes very very well in the sink or the tub whichever you prefer. Run some hot water, add some shampoo, mix it up and you're in business as an Art of Travel Master. When you finish washing, wring out your newly cleaned duds, lay a towel flat on the bed and then place your clothes on the towel in a spread out flat fashion. Next simply roll up the towel lengthwise so it is tight and place one end on the floor while holding the other. Step on the floor end to keep it in place and begin twisting the towel tighter and tighter and when you can't twist any tighter, release and remove your clothes from the towel. You will be amazed at how dry they already are! Give them a shake, hang them on hangers and in an hour or two you have clean dry clothes. Hey its not the most glamorous of ideas, but it works like a charm!!!
There is one other clothing item that I always have with me and that is a soccer warm up suit from Addidas. I own four sets and love them to death for travel because you can literally do anything in them from hanging around the hotel to going out to eat to working out to sightseeing. And when you pair a suit up with your moisture wicking underwear, socks and T-shirts you could live in just them for 30 days alone! Get some type of a "warm up" suit-once you do, it won't leave your bag-guarenteed!
But what about shoes you may be asking? Big clunky shoes can take up half of your bag and we don't want that. The Art of Travel requires lite-weight shoes that can fold up into almost nothing. Please step up to the microphone and sya thanks to Nike because their line of Free sneakers fit the bill perfectly and you can wear them without socks which eliminates the need to wash them at the end of your day in Disney world. Nike Frees have a very lightweight top on a sole that bends making them ideal packable shoes. I have owned a number of pair and am totally pleased with how well they suit the travel environment!
Also on the subject of shoes, I am a big fan of having a pair of flip flops stashed in your 30 day bag as well. They are a must for the beach and pool environment. They fold and lay flat and may fit well in the back external storage pocket of your 22"er!
Finally we need to discuss coats and sweaters. It really depends where you end up going and at what time of year. If your are like most folks, you will generally know where you are going on each and every trip. As an airline professional I never have a full itenerary when I leave home so its important to pack for hot/sunny and cold/rainy at the same time. Sweaters take up too much room so the answer is a layered coat with those layers being removable to suit the weather. There are tons and tons of these available everywhere. the only thing I would suggest looking for is breathability so you don't sweat. I have had a Columbia 2 layer coat that works in the coldest of cold and the outer shell is fine in a warm rain. I am very pleased with it and have had it now for 6 or 7 years. It will be a shame when it finally wears out.
So there you have it! 3 pairs of underwear and socks, 3 or 4 t-shirts, 2 convertible shirts, a couple of convertible pants, a warm up suit, a pair of shoes like the Frees and a layered coat and you are good to go. Follow this and you will have mastered the Art of Travel-clothing section.
Even though my goal here is to make you a Travel Artisan; until we invent a "Star Trek transporter", travel still takes time and often a lot of it! Sitting in airports, train stations, hotels, etc can be down right boring. Entertainment is an essential part of successful travel as well! We all have different likes and dislikes in this area so I will confine myself to what works for me.
Size, of course is a critical issue. You don't want to stop at Border's and pick up a gigantic hard-cover for your reading joy during your 30 day odyssey. I try and hit a used book store and buy 2 or 3 paperbacks for pennies. When I finish one I leave it in the room or put it in the lobby. Lighten your load as you go! That being said, I have seen the Sony E-reader on display in different stores. Its the size of a very very thin paperback and you can load it up with a whole bunch of books. I am not an e-reader-I like the hard copy. But if this floats your boat more power to you! You are well on your way to mastering the Art of Travel!
The ipod. Is there anything that even comes close to this gem in popular culture? I can't imagine being without it. My entire CD collection is on there plus tons of podcasts and TV shows. Paired up with some nice Shure earbuds; it is the quintessential weapon for all Art of Travel soldiers. Hint: don't bother with the big over-the-ear headphones, they take up way too much room. If you can't pass the time in an airport with a book or an ipod there's something wrong!
Quite possibly the only gadget that might surpass the ipod in importance to you in terms of travel is the digital camera. I am not going to go into any detail here except to say-get a small one! Through this whole exercise think the ultimate in portability.
Then there are the computer people. Some must carry them for work ( myself included ), others for personal reasons. If you are in the personal category do some serious thinking before you start hauling that extra 5 pounds around. Is it really worth the hassle to check your email? Most hotels have internet in the business centers. Lots of places have internet access nearby. But if you must, factor it into your backpack purchase and make sure it has good internal protection. What ever did we do before computers??? Get a PSP and leave the laptop at home...
The problem with all these gadgets is that they all require power and to get power you need adaptors and adaptors take up lots of space and serve as a major distraction to the Art of Travel. Luckily there is a solution. Look no further than iGo. These folks make a common adaptor that you attach little individual connectors to for each device you have. Now instead of one adapter for your cellphone, your Ipod, your computer, your PSP, your sony e-reader, your camera, ect, you can buy just one regular size adaptor and all the individual tips ( they are like the size of a nickel each). Purchasing the iGo system has been one of the best things I have ever done to add to my travel IQ. Try it-you'll like it!
The Toiletries and Food
Considering how often the regulations change about how we bring things on airplanes, this requires some new thought. Lets talk munchies first. There are easy ways to carry some food with you and I highly recommend it. You just never know when you may have to come up with a meal. The easiest thing is to carry just-add-hot-water easy prep meals that come in flat packets like soup and oatmeal. Protein bars are a favorite of mine as well. They take up very little space and you can pack a weeks worth of eating with no problem! I take it one step further and bring my own tea bags and a tall insulated and covered cup for heating water in. I accomplish this via an immersion heater. If you haven't seen one of these, its just a metal prong that is plugged into the wall and hooked onto the edge of a cup while immersed in whatever liquid is in the cup. The prong gets very hot and boils the water quickly! They are cheap too. Hint: don't use this on a plastic cup. Do I really need to say why?
Toiletries are a bit more difficult to deal with especially as you travel outside North America because you never know what type of "liquid" regulations are in effect in any given country. Do not assume that because we can carry on 3 ozs here that you will be able to do so in the Philippines because you won't! Since its next to impossible to predict what will happen in another country, just assume your liquids will be taken from your carry on bags. That way you won't be disappointed when it happens! But lets limit this to North American travel since we all know the standard.
I'll have to use some generalities here since there is a MAJOR difference in what the girls take compared to the guys! All you are permitted to take-as of this writing-is one quart size bag filled with individual containers no greater than 3 ozs each. A 6 oz toothpaste tube with 1 oz left doesn't count ( don't get me started! ). Which means you are left with buying very expensive travel size items from the grocery store that last about 30 seconds. Such is the nature of our new post 9/11 world-please feel free to send thank you cards to the wonderful folks responsible catching rays down in Guantanamo Bay!
There isn't really much you can do here except check your bag if you absolutely must take full size liquids. But that defeats the purpose in becoming a fellow Artisan of Travel! I only have one suggestion here and that is to get some after-market 3 oz or less containers and fill them up with all your potions and lotions. Its really the only way and when you run out you just have to go the local store.
Some More Tips To Consider!
It is my hope that some of these suggestions will benefit your travel experiences and make your trips a little more pleasureable because if you have fun, chances are you will want to get on an airplane again and when you fly I get paid! It's a win-win situation.
You are now a master in the Art of Travel! Go forth and explore your world!
Check Out Doc's Swiss Gear Synergy Demo...Same Bag As Above! Awesome Bag.
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